Cyclists tend to blame motorists or road engineering for cycling accidents, and rarely consider that the problem may lie from within. The persons causing most cyclist accidents are cyclists themselves, so by far the most effective method of reducing cycle injuries is learning to drive a bicycle as a vehicle using virtually all the same rules as driving an automobile.
Panaceas will not solve cyclists' problems. Bike paths and helmets were yesterday's panaceas; today's are bike lanes. Bike lanes are being promoted without considering their adverse effects, and in the absence of any evidence to support the claim they are "safer" for cyclists.
-- Avery Burdett
by Christine Code
If you cycle regularly, there is probably somebody in your life who's just itching to tell you that the city ought to put a bike lane on every major street.
"It will be safer," they proclaim. Are they right? No. Bike lanes only do two things:
1. they make life worse for cyclists, and
2. they allow politicians and uninformed advocates to feel that they've "done something for cycling."
Here are some of the problems that bike lanes create:
* Bike lanes cause turning and crossing conflicts for cyclists and motorists thus encouraging cyclists and motorists to drive in an unsafe fashion.
* Bike lanes contain additional road hazards for cyclists.
* Bike lanes lead to discrimination against cyclists.
* Wider curb lanes would be better than bike lanes for cyclists.
Turning and crossing conflicts
The presence of a bike lane encourages cyclists to ride in the bike lane, even when it is not appropriate to do so.
Most cyclists will remain on the "right turn only" lane, and will ride straight through the intersection. This puts these riders at great risk, as right-turning motorists are likely to pass such cyclists while turning right.
The presence of a bike lane makes it less likely that a motorist will carefully merge into the bike lane before turning right; motorists tend to stay to the left of the bike lane until the last moment before the turn, then turn sharply across the bike lane.
With left hand turns, when bike lanes are present, inexperienced cyclists tend to remain in the bike lane until they turn left. This means that the rider then has to cross several lanes all at once, which is just about impossible to do safely.
When debris, such as broken glass, is deposited on the roadway, motor traffic sweeps this debris to the side of the road. Since automobile drivers tend to stay out of the bike lane, debris gets swept into the bike lane, and it stays there. That's why bike lanes are notorious for collecting bits of mufflers and broken glass and other unwanted objects. Sure, you can have the city crew come along and sweep it up, but how often is this likely to happen? And is it worth spending tax dollars on sweeping that wouldn't be necessary if there was no bike lane?
A cyclist who rides safely and in a vehicular manner will face discrimination on a street with bike lanes. When a cyclist plans to turn left, that rider must first merge across a couple of lanes of traffic to get to the left turning lane. A competent cyclist does this smoothly and without incident every day.
When there is a bike lane on the street, a cyclist who merges left in preparation for a left hand turn is likely to face honks and comments from motorists. Once a bike lane exists, many motorists think that cyclists must use that bike lane, and only the bike lane.
Wider curb lanes are better
Bike lanes aren't the answer, but there are engineering solutions that will make life easier for cyclists. For example, a wider curb lane (with no stripe designating a bike lane) will make it possible for cyclists to share the lane with automobile traffic. For more information on curb lane width and other engineering issues that affect cyclists, refer to "Bicycle Transportation" and "Effective Cycling" by John Forester.
Christine Code is a CAN-BIKE Instructor and National Examiner.